I am glad to know that Frontline magazine is bringing out a Special Feature on the Democratic Front government's completion of one year in office. During the past one year, the government has taken a number of initiatives to address the challenges in the various sectors and ensure fast-paced economic growth and development of the State. The unprecedented heavy rains and floods in Mumbai and many other districts in the State caused immense misery to millions of people. The government activated its machinery all over the State and successfully undertook rescue, recovery, restoration, relief and rehabilitation measures to bring back normalcy. More than 5,00,000 people from the flood-affected areas were temporarily shifted to safer locations. About Rs.475 crores was disbursed as ex-gratia relief to nine lakh families to enable them to restart their lives. The farmers suffered severe loss on account of damage to crops. The government took immediate decisions to get their loans rescheduled and arrange for fresh disbursement. Reasonable assistance was given to all affected farmers. The people of Maharashtra faced this disaster with courage and conviction. The State government has sought the intervention and support of the Government of India in this regard and initiated measures to prevent recurrence of this kind of disaster in future. The task before us is enormous but I am confident we will be able to see it through.
The financial condition of the State has improved significantly. After a long time, the government presented a revenue surplus budget. The government has given top-most priority to the development of the downtrodden, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe populations in the State by providing Rs.1,122 crores and Rs.990 crores for the special component plan and the tribal sub-plan respectively.
For the first time, the government provided Rs.1,000 crores in the budget for the development of Mumbai and has submitted a number of proposals to the Government of India under the Urban Renewal Mission. Significant provisions have been made for irrigation development, particularly in the regions having a backlog in irrigation. The State has already brought a revolution in horticulture development and is all set to strengthen it further with the help of the National Horticulture Mission.
The State government has taken bold decisions for reforms in the power sector. The State Electricity Board has implemented a number of structural reforms to enhance generation, reduce transmission and distribution losses and improve connection efficiency. To meet the ever-increasing energy requirements in the State, the Ratnagiri Gas and Power Project is being restarted. All these steps, I am sure, will help the State meet its power requirements and even become surplus in power by the end of the decade.
Considering the potential and possibilities of non-conventional energy, the State has taken a number of initiatives to increase the production of bio-fuel and harness hydel power from small dams. The Department of Non-Conventional Energy has brought a comprehensive policy for enhancing the possibility of generation and use of non-conventional energy in the State.
It has been proved time and again that Maharashtra is the most favoured destination for foreign direct investment in the country. The changed economic environment in the country has been attracting investors to India from all over the world, but Maharashtra continues to be the most preferred State. Our endeavour is to maintain this envious position. Many corporate giants, including Microsoft, have shown significant interest for investment in Maharashtra. We have signed MoUs amounting to Rs.12,500 crores.
Although last July Mumbai faced the worst ever disaster in its history, my dream is to make Mumbai, one of the finest metros in the world. A number of initiatives have been planned. Some of them are already under execution. With support from the Central government, the World Bank and the citizens' of Mumbai, we will transform the city within the next five years.
Although Maharashtra is one of the front-running States in terms of per capita income, there are certain parts of the State, particularly rural areas, that need greater attention to improve the livelihood opportunities and facilities for education and health service. The government has, therefore, now decided to place emphasis on improving the Human Development Index for the backward districts. Investments that would improve livelihood opportunities, bring all children to schools and provide basic minimum health care are being targeted on priority.
Initiatives taken in the first year have already started yielding results. This only makes us believe that we are on the right path.
We will continue to strive with increased vigour to consolidate the gains further.
Maharashtra is poised for all-round development and I sincerely believe the Special Feature will be a genuine attempt to present the same to the people.I wish the Special Feature all success.(sd-)
(Vilasrao Deshmukh) Chief Minister of Maharashtra